March 14, 2022

Ep 354: Katie Silver - Regional Project Director, Reuters Events

Regional Project Director
Reuters Events
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Show notes

Olivia Columbus [00:00:59] So we are here today on Titans of Nuclear with Katie Silver, who is the Project Director for Nuclear North America and Energy Transition at Reuters Events. Katie, welcome to Titans.

Katie Silver [00:01:11] Thank you so much. Thank you.

Olivia Columbus [00:01:14] So we're really excited to have you here today to talk all about the Reuters SMR and Advanced Reactor Conference that's coming up. But first, let's learn a little bit about you. Where'd you grow up and kind of what's your background? How did you get into energy?

Katie Silver [00:01:26] So I'm from London, and I suppose I've always had like a deep connection with nature, just sort of the way that I was raised and my family. And so I then went to Newcastle University to study geography, and then I started at Foster + Partners, which is an architecture firm, and then WSP, which is an engineering firm, and sort of used my interest in geography for both of those roles. And then I was a producer for health and social care, which is quite a different role, obviously, but I realized my interest in production there. And then from that, I wanted to challenge myself a bit further and started at Reuters with Energy Transition for Asia-Pacific. And then in December after that, I was given Nuclear Energy for North America and internationally. So that's what I'm working on at the moment.

Olivia Columbus [00:02:24] Very cool. And so when you were working on energy transition, what kinds of projects and events were you working on there?

Katie Silver [00:02:30] It was just a kind of macro, top level discussion about infrastructure, technology, hydrogen and all those sorts of things that are key within the energy transition space, but with a view of Asia-Pacific, specifically. So that was really, really interesting. And we're doing that again this year. But yes, as I said for the moment, it's nuclear for me. So, yes.

Olivia Columbus [00:02:54] That's really great. And so what was it like when you sort of were given that task of the nuclear events? Was there sort of a learning curve you had to go through. What was that like?

Katie Silver [00:03:06] Yeah, absolutely. So energy transition, obviously nuclear plays like a key part in net zero. So there is quite a link between the two areas. But I didn't have as in-depth knowledge, I suppose, of nuclear. So that was quite a learning curve kind of going into that. And I didn't know what SMR stood for in December, and now I'm running the SMR and Advanced Reactor event. So obviously that's quite a jump, but I've learned a lot and we do a lot of in-depth research for our events, maybe 40 hours plus and 30 calls with speakers, so you learn a lot very quickly, and people are always willing to share their knowledge. So that's great.

Olivia Columbus [00:03:49] So you mentioned the SMR and Advanced Reactor Conference. We're really excited for the upcoming conference; we're going to be there recording Titans episodes. And Bret has spoken at this conference before. It's very well-regarded to the industry. Tell us a little bit about the conference, how it started, sort of the history of it.

Katie Silver [00:04:08] Yeah, sure. So it was previously known as Nuclear Energy Insider. I believe there were like nine events previous to 2019. That was the last in-person event. So yeah, we're really excited to be back in person again. And obviously a lot of momentum has built within the industry since that time with lots of new licenses and progresses in deployment and commercialization. So it's going to be really interesting to see everyone come together and talk about all these recent developments. We've seen so much interest already. It's really, really great. So yeah, we're looking forward to it.

Olivia Columbus [00:04:48] Yeah. And so the conference is in Atlanta this year. Why the United States and why Atlanta?

Katie Silver [00:04:54] So the United States, just because there's a lot of movement there with the likes of NuScale and so on. And they're a key market in terms of SMRs and advanced reactors. We are also going to have a lot of U.K. Interest as well because we have the likes of Rolls-Royce SMR attending too and speaking. So it's a focus on North America but also with other countries participating too.

Olivia Columbus [00:05:23] Yeah, I know you guys have... U.S., Canada is a big one. I know you guys have some folks from there and then and in the U.K. So tell us a little bit about who's going to be speaking at the event and some of the major topics you guys are hoping to cover.

Katie Silver [00:05:37] Yes. So we have amazing speakers this year, like really, really high caliber. We have C-suite speakers from NuScale Power, Constellation Energy Corporation, who were previously Exelon. We also have the CEO of Rolls-Royce SMR. We also have the chairman of the USNRC and the president of CNFC, Energy Northwest. I mean, we also have... We have so many people I could go on and bore you with my voice, but we have Ms. Liddy Ebrod as well from the International Energy Agency. So that's amazing. She's the Deputy Director General. And we just haven't seen such a high level, I think, since the event began. So yeah, it's super exciting.

Olivia Columbus [00:06:25] That's really exciting. So you know, obviously there are a lot of different folks who are coming into these conversations. What are some of the main topics that you guys are hoping to to cover, whether it's financing or licensing or technology? Where are you trying to focus these conversations?

Katie Silver [00:06:45] So I guess the main kind of focus is the short and long term future of nuclear, which is obviously very broad. So we've broken it down into technological, regulatory and investment news. And then we've kind of got five key pillars, the first being commercialization, generating investment, and then key steps and learnings for SMR development. And then we have recruitment flows and kind of nuclear and talent. And then to end, we have playing our part in the transition. So where SMRs fit into net zero and the future energy mix.

Olivia Columbus [00:07:21] Very cool, very cool. Well, that sounds like a really exciting conference. Which of those conversations are you most looking forward to?

Katie Silver [00:07:31] I think all of them, but I'm biased. I suppose also for me it would be playing our part in the transition, obviously coming from that space initially. It's interesting to kind of see what people think about their role in net zero and the impact they're actually going to have. So that's exciting in itself.

Olivia Columbus [00:07:51] Yeah. And so, how are you sort of helping to frame these conversations within that broader energy transition movement? You know, nuclear is one very important part of that movement, and sort of how do you work that in?

Katie Silver [00:08:08] So I suppose you have to think about the different kinds of elements that come into play in terms of the transition itself. That could also mean, I suppose, energy equity and giving people access to energy such as kind of local communities or alternative communities that are off the grid. So that's one element. And then also kind of like where do you put these SMRs? You could use old coal sites; that's a really good use of space and kind of old fossil fuel, kind of changing that up to be more beneficial. So yeah, there are lots of ways that you could look at it, I suppose.

Olivia Columbus [00:08:48] That's really exciting, yeah. And so I know, one thing you're really interested in is women and energy and sort of bridging that divide. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Katie Silver [00:08:58] Yes, definitely. So I think representation is obviously really, really important. And one of the calls that I had with Diane Cameron from the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, she said that at one event she was the only woman, I think. And I just think it can feel so isolating, I suppose, if you're in an industry and you just see one one woman at the top. And a lot of times, that doesn't even reflect the industry. I just think if you look hard enough, you'll find them. And if you maybe take speakers that aren't CEOs, but you involve VPs and so on, then you're more likely to get a fairer representation. So that's personally really important to me, and important to Reuters Events as well. So yeah, we've got some amazing women on board.

Olivia Columbus [00:09:49] That's really exciting. And you know, definitely, I think representative of maybe some of our experiences, it's definitely a male dominated industry, but we've been seeing so many, especially young women getting really involved in nuclear. It's really exciting to see, to go to some of these big industry conferences and see the number of young, not just female nuclear engineers, which is so great, but also women working in other areas related to nuclear. That's just been such an exciting change for us to see.

Katie Silver [00:10:25] Yeah, I just think the role of... If you have a position in your job to kind of move the needle and you have a say in who's being represented, then it's really important to act in it. Obviously I'm in a position where I choose the speakers and I choose the agenda based on a lot of research, but if you're in the position than I think it's your responsibility to actually follow through. We also believe in not having any "man-els." That's what we call them. So like, no all male panels.

Olivia Columbus [00:10:58] That's really great. Yeah, I love that. And that's something that is so important. How have you guys sort of managed... Obviously, we're in totally new times dealing with a pandemic and that is such a huge challenge for people who are running events. How have you guys managed that and worked around that?

Katie Silver [00:11:25] So obviously we're paying attention to the government guidelines and so on, and we run events all over the world. So it very much depends on the rules there. For example, in Atlanta versus APAC it would be very different, but this year is the first time we're going back to in-person events. I mean, there was one in Houston in November I think, and that went well. We've got good onsite health and safety measures and so on. So yeah, it's just kind of being flexible, but also moving forward now that everyone's a lot safer, hopefully. We feel a lot more confident about being back in person.

Olivia Columbus [00:12:04] That's great. We're really excited about the conference and we can't wait to do interviews at the conference. Definitely if people are there, they should come find us, come say "hi" to Titans of Nuclear. So let's talk a little bit about nuclear more broadly. You're from the U.K.; obviously, it's a really important energy source for the U.K. and the U.K. has been so sort of dominant in emphasizing the importance of nuclear to reach those net zero goals. What do you kind of see as the future of nuclear? Let's start in the U.K.

Katie Silver [00:12:43] So the key player at the moment from where I'm standing is obviously Rolls Royce SMR. They have gotten a lot of funding from Saudi Arabia, from the British government and from Qatar. So that's a lot of progress there. And I think investment shows a lot about kind of the way that an industry is moving, and that's a lot of the reason why there's so much momentum at the moment within SMRs, it's just so much money is being thrown at it now after such a long time of not really seeing much development. Also, I know that NuScale is planning to deploy a SMR by 2029 in Poland. So it's not just the U.K., it's more and more places every day. So that's really exciting to see. But yeah, it's great to see the U.K. play a big part as well.

Olivia Columbus [00:13:39] Yeah, I mean you mentioned Poland. Nuclear not only offers net zero energy, but it also offers that energy security aspect which is so important and something that we're thinking about every single day, how important it is for a country to be in control of their own energy. And that is just such a sort of wonderful additional aspect of it and something that I think we're seeing as really important.

Katie Silver [00:14:08] Yeah, definitely.

Olivia Columbus [00:14:09] Yeah. Great. So then let's kind of talk more broadly, globally. Where do you sort of see the value of nuclear?

Katie Silver [00:14:17] That's such a big question. There's so many great benefits. I suppose, as I mentioned before, sort of the impact on local communities and those that are not necessarily connected to the grid. I know the SMRs have been used by the navy maybe since the '50s or so, so actually a long time, but commercially, they're becoming more viable for these sorts of people that couldn't access energy to begin with. So that's going to be great for equity. And as I mentioned as well, the coal sites and replacing those, I suppose, negative uses of the land into something more positive. And also in terms of investment, they're a great opportunity for a lot of private investors to make a lot of money because there's so much interest in them being so rapidly developed. Another great thing about nuclear that I've noticed since I started working in it is how it's not a clear cut ecosystem of vendor and end user. There's lots of people interlinked. So I suppose with the development of an industry like that, it brings up a lot of companies along with it, like the manufacturers and software developers and things like that. There's so much opportunity for growth that it's really going to have a great impact.

Olivia Columbus [00:15:43] No, it's true. I think we definitely see an opportunity for maybe industries that have historically been producing equipment for, you know, quote unquote, dirty energy sources to sort of transition along with nuclear. There's an opportunity for a lot of that equipment to be used in new nuclear development and sort of bringing everyone along so that no one is left behind and everyone is able to really go through this equitable clean energy transition together and hit those net zero goals. And that's just so important and offers so many opportunities not just for decarbonization of communities, but industry as well. That's a huge part of that net zero issue that I think we don't talk about enough, how do we decarbonize hard to, you know, high energy intensive industries? Nuclear offers that as well, the base load power issue, things like that. So, so important.

Olivia Columbus [00:16:47] I'm going to leave you with the final word. What haven't I asked you that you wish I had?

Katie Silver [00:16:54] I don't know, you've asked a lot of great questions. I don't know; we've kind of covered everything, to be honest. I suppose the key points for me are just like, there's so much value in in thinking about SMRs at the moment. And also the fact that we're back in person. We're really, really excited about that. We've seen so much interest and we just can't wait to have everyone there with us to discuss this important industry.

Olivia Columbus [00:17:28] So where can people find you guys? How can they learn more about the conference?

Katie Silver [00:17:33] So if you type in Reuters Events SMR and Advanced Reactor, we'll come up there, and I suppose there will be a link in the description of this episode as well.

Olivia Columbus [00:17:47] Great, yeah. So everyone should definitely go check out the conference, attend if you can, and enjoy and learn from this awesome, awesome industry experience.

Katie Silver [00:17:58] Yeah. Thank you so much.

Olivia Columbus [00:18:00] Thank you so much, Katie, for joining us today on Titans.

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